State Library of Victoria
Meander through the Queen Victoria Market
Explore ACMI's 'Screen Worlds'
Listen to live music
Melbourne locals love listening to live music. Fortunately, this is one activity you don’t have to miss if you’re strapped for cash. Cherry Bar, in the city’s ACDC Lane, calls itself ‘pretty much the best rock ‘n’ roll bar in the world’. It offers free admission throughout the week (on Tuesdays, Wednesday and Sundays), and often hosts big-name after-parties and rock stars. Another option is The Esplanade in St Kilda, which has free entry most nights and is the place to catch emerging rock acts.
Go on a hunt for public sculptures
Deborah Halpern is one of Australia’s most celebrated sculptors. She’s know for her colourful mosaic sculptures; three of which are on display in Melbourne. There’s Angel (1987) at Birrarung Marr, Ophelia (1992) at Southgate, and Portal to Another Time and Place (2005) at Werribee Mansion. Other public sculptures to seek out in Melbourne include Bruce Armstrong’s Eagle (2002) and John Kelly’s Cow up a Tree (1999) in Docklands, Simon Perry’s The Public Purse (1994) outside the GPO building, and Petrus Spronk’s sinking building known as Architectural Fragment (1992) outside the State Library of Victoria.
Wander through the Royal Botanic Gardens
Escape the buzz of Melbourne’s city streets in the tranquil sanctuary that is the Royal Botanic Gardens. Spread across 94 acres, the sprawling gardens contain a collection of 10,000 plants – both native and exotic. With 11 lawns, there’s ample space to relax and unwind. There’s also a 3.8-kilometre (2.4-mile) walking track known as ‘The Tan’ that circles the garden.
Get inspired at The Wheeler Centre
Explore Melbourne’s Southbank
Stretching alongside the Yarra River from Princes Bridge to the Melbourne Exhibition Centre, the Southbank entertainment precinct includes some of Melbourne’s top restaurants, high-end retailers and Crown Casino. Stroll down the promenade where you’ll find buskers and gaze up at Melbourne’s skyline. At night, marvel at Crown Casino’s Gas Brigades, which send fireballs high into the sky every hour.
Take a ride on the City Circle Tram
Trams are an integral part of Melbourne’s cityscape. The free City Circle Tram allows tourists and Melburnians alike to travel throughout the city, hopping on and off as they wish. The fleet of historical W-class trams travels through La Trobe, Flinders, Spring, Nicholson and Victoria Streets, covering Melbourne’s central business district. There’s audio commentary on board as well; revealing the attractions at each stop, and interesting facts along the way.
Find refuge in one of the city’s churches
Whether you’re searching for a peaceful refuge or seeking to admire architectural feats, Melbourne’s places of worship are worth a look. St Paul’s Cathedral is located in the heart of Melbourne’s central business district. Designed by English architect William Butterfield, the cathedral is built in the neo-Gothic transitional style. Nearby is the medieval-looking St Patrick’s Cathedral. You’ll also find St Mary Star of the Sea Church and St Michael’s Uniting Church. These holy houses are impressive to look at and spiritual to visit.
Learn more about Indigenous culture at the Koorie Heritage Trust
Head to St Kilda
Located six kilometres (3.7 miles) southeast of Melbourne, St Kilda is an idyllic seaside escape only minutes from the city. Stroll down the shoreline to St Kilda Pier for some penguin spotting and breathtaking skyline views. The bustling nearby Acland Street is a great place to grab a bite, and on Sundays there’s a beachfront market too. You can also walk around Luna Park for free but, of course, the activities cost extra.
Discover beautiful vistas from rooftop bars
The best views of the city are found at a height, making rooftop bars the best spots to soak in a sunset and watch as the lights switch on across Melbourne’s cityscape. Siglo offers views of St Patrick’s Cathedral and Parliament House, as well as a range of sophisticated drinks. With other options like Madame Brussels and Naked in the Sky, you’ll be more than happy to treat yourself to a drink or two when the bar comes with a view.
Explore the laneways for colourful street art
The labyrinth of laneways that snake themselves around Melbourne have become some of the most sought-after real estate for artists looking for urban canvases. Splashed in bright colours, the magnificent murals of Duckboard Place, as well as Hosier, Union and ACDC Lanes are open to artistic expression and make for Instagram-worthy backdrops.
Discover aviation history at the RAAF Museum
Pay your respects at the Shrine of Remembrance
Take a walk and see Melbourne’s architectural gems
Throughout Melbourne, you’ll find a juxtaposition of modern, Victorian and art deco architecture, with daring designers constantly pushing boundaries and expanding the cityscape. Walking around Melbourne, you need only to look up and gaze at buildings and structures, including Eureka Tower, Federation Square, the Manchester Unity Building and the Melbourne Theatre Company. Fed Square was completed in 2002 and incorporates both a deconstructive design and a modern minimalist style.
Tour Parliament House
Scout the filming locations of your favourite TV shows
Many of Australia’s most iconic television shows have been filmed in Melbourne, including Neighbours (1985–present), Offspring (2010–present), and Kath & Kim (2002–2007). For Neighbours fans, all outside shots of Ramsay Street are filmed in Pin Oak Court, Vermont South. The non-free option is to do the Official Neighbours Tour, where you get to meet a Neighbours star (past or present). Filming for Kath & Kim took place at 4 Lagoon Place, Patterson Lakes. Offspring fans should visit Brunswick Street to see Dr Noonan’s surgery exterior and Emma Street in Collingwood to see the Proudman home.
Enjoy yourself at a festival
Melbourne’s events calendar is teeming with festivals throughout the year, all of which offer free entertainment in addition to ticketed events. In March, there’s Moomba, which is Australia’s largest free community festival. There’s nightly fireworks, celebrity monarchs, a parade, and carnival rides and games galore. Other popular festivals in the city include the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Melbourne Writers Festival, Melbourne Fringe and Melbourne Festival.
This article was originally written by Monique La Terra and has since been updated.